Pipe Organs of Indonesia
Bekker -Lefebre, Weltevreden
The old Dutch colonial port of Batavia is now encompassed by the city of Greater Jakarta. It is, however still recognisable because of the building styles and the inevitable canals running through the city. Near the railway station is a building that is remarkable for its plain and almost unnoticeable appearance on the outside. However, inside Gereja Sion is a different story.
This Protestant church was originally called De Niuwe Portugeese Buiten Kerk (The New Portuguese Outer Church - referring to its location just outside the old walls of Batavia) and was inaugurated in l695, making it the oldest church in Jakarta and possibly all of Indonesia. It is built on wooden piles and the floor is covered with granite plates. Walls are plastered brick and huge dark timbers hold the roof in place. The baroque pulpit and altar, with carved pillars and copper dome, dominate the front of this rectangular church. Many early tombstones in the graveyard reveal much of the sad history of 17th and 18th century life in the former Dutch colony.
Above the rear doors in a high balcony engraved with the words "Jesus Keristus Hidup!" (Jesus Christ is alive! or, colloquially, Living Lord!) is a heavily decorated baroque pipe organ. Built by Bekker-Lefebre of Weltevreden, Netherlands, in 1860, this appears to have been the only pipe organ in the long history of the church. For many years up to 1987 the organ was not playable, but work has been done to restore life to this beautiful instrument. When I visited Gereja Sion restoration of the organ by local volunteers was still underway and it was only partially working.
The console of this charming organ is detached from the side of the organ case and is built high off the balcony floor, giving the feeling that you are going to topple off the stool while you are playing. However, this arrangement allows very good eye contact with the proceedings on the lower floor and may well have been a design feature of the instrument.
The organ is hand blown through large double rise bellows. Electric blowing appears to be available, but I was unable to find a means of activation and had to depend on the services of my family to pump the organ.
Visually, this organ is the stuff stories are made of. Two large towers form the frame of the organ case with a small central tower. Between these towers on each side of the centre are two flats being of two ranks of pipes mounted above each other and two projecting sections of pipework. All façade pipework is very high grade polished tin and the pipe mouths have been gilded. The woodwork of the case is magnificent and the whole structure is lavishly embellished with masses of gilt filigree. The theme is carried to the balcony railing with a huge crest design also in gilt.
The parts of the organ that were playable sounded strong and pure in the favourable acoustic of this church. My understanding is that the restoration work has yet to be complete, but I would certainly put this organ on my list to visit next time I am in Jakarta just so I can see how they are making out.
A report from Benedictus Martino Hidajat in 2007 indicates this organ is in need of repair.
Specification of the organ (with corrections from Martino) is:
Pedaal Koppel I
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